Jacob Daskal, Founder of Brooklyn Safety Patrol, Is Charged With Sexually Abusing a Teen

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New York|Founder of Brooklyn Safety Patrol Is Charged With Sexually Abusing Teen

Jacob Daskal, who founded the ultra-Orthodox patrol, groomed a 15-year-old girl for sex and abused her in New York and Chicago, federal prosecutors said.

Jacob Daskal outside the courthouse in Brooklyn after being charged with sexually abusing a teenage girl in 2018. The federal charges announced on Thursday involve the same alleged victim.
Credit...Stephanie Keith for The New York Times
March 4, 2021, 4:51 p.m. ET

An influential founder of a Brooklyn safety patrol sexually abused a teenage girl for several months in his home, at a summer house in upstate New York and at a hotel in Chicago, federal prosecutors said on Thursday.

The allegations against Jacob Daskal, 62, were outlined in a federal indictment that added new details to statutory rape charges filed against him in state court nearly three years ago, which officials said involved the same 15-year-old victim.

In announcing the federal charges, prosecutors said Mr. Daskal’s prominent position with the safety patrol and his insistence that the teenager not tell anyone about the abuse had made her feel threatened.

“The victim was afraid of the defendant because of his position of power in the community,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing.

Mr. Daskal pleaded not guilty to the new charges at an arraignment in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday.

The security patrol that Mr. Daskal founded, the Brooklyn South Safety Patrol, is also known as the shomrim, the Hebrew word for “guards.”

The shomrim, a nonprofit organization, is staffed by unarmed ultra-Orthodox Jewish volunteers and functions as a kind of auxiliary police force in Borough Park, Brooklyn, where it is viewed as a source of local pride. Sister patrols exist in other ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Brooklyn, including Crown Heights and Williamsburg.

The Borough Park group was founded in the 1970s in response to skyrocketing crime rates and a wave of anti-Semitic incidents in the city at the time, community leaders said.

The patrol keeps a close eye on anti-Semitic attacks in the neighborhood, which have become a pressing concern in recent years, particularly those targeting ultra-Orthodox Jews. It has also evolved into a force that handles tasks like crowd control, locating missing persons and providing security for weddings, religious services and other community events.

But some shomrim members have been more interested in breaking the law than upholding it. In 2016, two men linked to the Williamsburg patrol assaulted a Black man in the neighborhood, while a member in Borough Park was arrested that year on federal charges of trying to bribe police officers in order to secure handgun permits.

Mr. Daskal lives in Borough Park and helped to found the shomrim there, prosecutors said.

The accusations that Mr. Daskal abused the girl first emerged in May 2018, when he was arrested by sex crimes investigators for the New York Police Department. At the time, he was charged with statutory rape, sexual abuse and other crimes.

Community leaders said they believed the shomrim had removed Mr. Daskal from his leadership role after the allegations came to light, but his current role in the organization was not clear on Thursday. A prosecutor said in court on Thursday that she did not believe Mr. Daskal was still involved with the patrol but that she was not certain.

Echoing the state case, the federal indictment accuses Mr. Daskal of abusing the girl over several months in 2017. The federal charges stem from the government’s contention that the illegal activity was not confined to Brooklyn but also involved crossing state lines.

After taking the victim in at his Borough Park home, the indictment says, Mr. Daskal groomed her for sex and then assaulted her repeatedly, both in Brooklyn and at his vacation house in the Catskills, in South Fallsburg, N.Y. To get there, prosecutors said, he traveled through New Jersey.

In October 2017, prosecutors said, the victim moved to Chicago to attend a new school. While she was there, Mr. Daskal stayed in touch with her via text message and Skype, asking that she pose nude for him during their video chats and also that she send him nude photographs.

In November of that year, he flew to Chicago to visit the girl, brought her to a hotel and sexually abused her, the indictment says.

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